« Book chapters ready for review | Main | Improving on WORD to PDF coversion »

Why is XML Authoring so hard?

Here is a brief account of my XML authoring adventure:

Last week I wanted to author a document that looked like a W3C specification, and which separated the content (a XML file) from the presentation (an XSL file). As I usually do, I started with an existing W3C document, http://www.w3.org/TR/2003/WD-wsdl12-20030124/wsdl12.xml and existing stylesheet http://www.w3.org/TR/2003/WD-wsdl12-20030124/xmlspec-wsdl.xsl and made the appropriate modifications using my favorite text editor TextPad. I used MS IE6.0 to view the transformed document, after every paragraph. This would not only show the transformed HTML document with intended look and feel but would also catch silly mistakes (like omission of </p> tag).

This worked okay for a while but soon I got weary of switching between TextPad and IE. Kept wondering that there got to be a better way to create such documents. May be there are XML authoring tools out there.

Search for such tools led me to two promising products: an open source XML edior called Xopus and a commercial product called Authentic from Altova, makers of XMLSPY.

Xopus, a JavaScript based browser based product, appeared quite promising, to start with. However, I ran into problems pretty soon. The demo at their web-site ran fine but it won't work from my filesystem. After digging a bit, I found out that the demo files have to be served over an HTTP connection. Arranged for this by setting up a Tomcat server and moving Xopus files in the document directory. But now, the modified documents won't get saved. Found out that the backend (Tomcat server in this case) has to accept the modified XML document. No information on how to do this. Tried to modify the configuration the Tomcat servlet responsible for serving files to making read-only parameter as false. No luck. Also learn't that the original authors are pulling out from open source version. Enough for me to move away from Xopus !!

Authentic (part of XMLSPY product family) looked more promising, partly because it had a $100.00 plus price tag and partly due to snazzy looking screen shots. Installed an eval copy on my local machine and started playing around. However, my excitement was short-lived. Pretty soon I learn't that it worked okay for pre-packaged stylesheets, compiled into some internal format known as .sps format. Use of an external stylesheet required used of a Stylesheet Designer. My attempts to find this, either within Authentic or at Altova's (company that sells Authentic) web site, produced no results !!

I had spent more than 6 hours and no luck !!

Perhaps I should make the switch to emacs and Ovidiu's xslt-process !! However, given my multiple (failed) attempts to switch to emacs, that will have to wait for another day.

For the time being, I am back to where I had started -- TextPad and IE. They work just fine and don't put artificial restrictions on what I can do.

Comments (3)


Give Komodo a shot (http://activestate.com/Products/Komodo/?_x=1). You can even switch between the MSXML XSLT engine and others (Saxon, Xalan, etc.).


I haven't used it for XSLT in a long time, but Cooktop used to do the job well. I mostly used it for XPath debugging though.



I have used both Authentic and Xopus. It did take some time to get either of them working over HTTP, but I did in the end.
For authentic, you need XML Spy, which includes the stylesheet designer (also available stand alone from the Altova Online shop)
However, Authentic uses HTML forms to edit the XML where Xopus is a real *and i mean REAL * wysiwig editor. I had great support from Q42 on the implementation.


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on February 17, 2003 10:46 AM.

The previous post in this blog was Book chapters ready for review.

The next post in this blog is Improving on WORD to PDF coversion.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

Powered by
Movable Type 3.33